By Matthew Pearce
It was like an “apocalypse” in the small town of Comet on the night of Thursday, 12 May – but in a good way – with flooded roads causing more than 100 people to descend on the Comet River Hotel.
Katty Young, who is staying out the back of the pub in a caravan while her husband works at the cotton gin in nearby Emerald, said no-one had anticipated how busy the country pub would be that night.
With the roads to Emerald and Blackwater cut overnight by flooding, the small country pub was visited by miners, truckies, cowboys and travelers, as well as locals who lived on the other side of the Comet River who couldn’t get home.
According to the Bureau of Meteorology, Emerald was hit with 133.2mm of rain over the three days from 11 to 13 May, while Blackwater recorded 141.8.
Twenty-four of the Comet River Hotel’s 34 rooms were filled on 12 May, but that was just some of the people staying that night, with about 120 people estimated at the pub at one stage.
Katty joked the situation was like the end of the world.
“There were people in caravans, people sleeping in their cars and I was lending people clothes because they were drenched,” she said.
“It was four deep at the bar all night. Normally we do about 40 meals, on that night we ended up doing 83, as well as four kegs in one night and 148 schooners of just one type of beer.”
The afternoon had started normally but with multiple rivers rising, Katty said the situation had escalated quickly.
“At 5 o’clock the whole place was dead and then there was one phone call. Then it didn’t stop, the phone was off the hook with people asking for a room,” she said.
“We had the fire going and it was just surrounded by drying clothes and boots.
“But I think everybody had a good time and was patient with each other, realising staff were definitely under the pump.”
New publican Andy Johnson, who’s only been in town for nine weeks, said the night had been “pretty mad”, with him getting up early the next day to feed his guests breakfast and send them off to work once the flooding had subsided.
Andy said his work history had centered around working for brokers and small family hotel owners to achieve results in improving small hotels.
Recently he left his position at Advancetown in the Gold Coast Hinterland to team with Paul Kelly to continue the expansion of the Comet River Hotel, which had been “virtually closed down” by the previous owners.
This expansion has included the addition of 34 ensuite rooms for travelers and workers.
“Shortly we will continue growth with the establishment of powered and non powered caravan and camping sites and the planting of shade and fruit trees around the rear boundary of the property.,” he said.
“Our intention is to grow the business and make it a local point of the community.”
The hotel will also be introducing a new beer line in the next couple of weeks.
Describing Comet as a “really great place to be”, Andy said the best thing about the town was the friendly local community.
“With everything from campdrafts to Dog Trials, cattlework to lawnmower races, this little community is forging ahead.”
He said the hotel was always looking for good staff, with accommodation available.